It is the main commercial city of the North Bengal and its importance comes from its strategic location near international and state borders. It is situated on the banks of the river Mahananda. Spread across the foothills of the Himalayas, it is an important transport, trading and educational centre.
From 1878 the railway route to Siliguri was north for 185 km on the broad-gauge. In 1881 the meter-gauge was joined at Siliguri. In 1915 two new narrow-gauge lines were added to the DHR from Siliguri, to the north-east up the river Teesta valley towards Kalimpong and Sikkim and to the south-west. Also in 1915 the Hardinge Bridge was built across the river Ganges, and in 1926 the meter-gauge north of the bridge was converted, so the whole Calcutta – Siliguri route became broad-gauge.
The layout is again changing, for the 1949 meter-gauge route to Assam is also being converted to broad-gauge. In early February 2003 meter-gauge track had been lifted, and broad-gauge track was being laid, from New Jalpaiguri north through Siliguri Town and Siliguri Junction at least as far as the bridge over the river Teesta. For the moment, Siliguri Junction retains one meter-gauge line (south-west to Kishanganj and Barsoi) and two narrow-gauge lines (north to Darjeeling; south to Siliguri Town and New Jalpaiguri) but the future of what is now a Barsoi – Kishanganj – Siliguri Junction meter-gauge branch must be uncertain since for some 150km it runs virtually parallel to the broad-gauge main line, which has been doubled since the late 1980s. When broad-gauge arrives at Siliguri Junction, it would be possible to concentrate interchange.
Siliguri is situated at the base of the Himalaya Mountains in the plains. It is the largest city in the area of North Bengal and the second largest city in West Bengal. It connects the hill station towns of Gangtok, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik with the rest of India. The Mahananda River flows past Siliguri. Siliguri has three main seasons, summer, winter and monsoons. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 38°C. It is considerably cooler than the southern and central regions of West Bengal. During this season, tourists from all over India stop in Siliguri en route to the cooler climes of the northern hill stations. Winters are relatively cool and temperatures range from a high of 15°C to a low of about 3°C. Light rain and dense fog are seen during this season. During the monsoon season between June and September, the town is lashed by heavy rains often cutting access to the hill stations and Sikkim. The climate is suitable for growing tea and the surrounding region has many tea gardens.
Siliguri lies in between the north eastern Himalayas and the Dooars region of West Bengal. There are a number of wild life sanctuaries, heritage places, hill stations and scenic riverbanks that feature among the tourist attractions in Siliguri.